A large steer horn Victorian hair comb with gilded embellishment
CONDITION: the gilding is slightly worn otherwise good vintage condition.
SIZE: 7 ¼ ins h x 3½ ins w (18.5 x 9 cm)
APPROXIMATE DATE: 1870s - 1900
MATERIALS: steer horn
Here is another nice quality steer horn hair comb of the Spanish type. It has a tall pointed heading and five sturdy tines. The heading has a solid panel in the centre upon which has been graven a formalised design. This has then been in-filled with gold pigment. An openwork border of scroll work surrounds the central panel.
The final illustration shows a collage of contemporary carte de visite photographs with actual sitters wearing examples of these very large Spanish style combs,
This type of ornament is often known as Spanish or mantilla comb because it resembles a smaller version of the traditional large shell ornaments worn by Spanish ladies with their native dress. In practice any comb which has a high upstanding heading or top which stands proud of the top of the head is often called a mantilla comb.
Horn was one of the most popular materials for hair combs in the 19th century, not only because the material was cheap, but also because it could be easily treated to obtain a number of decorative effects.
In the first part of the 19th century, the making of combs was still a handicraft, and many combs were made in small local manufactories. However by the mid century they were being produced in vast numbers by means of mechanical die-stamping. Polishing and finishing, including painting the horn with chemicals to simulate the tortoise markings, was usually undertaken in the UK as a cottage industry by women and children who were the families of the comb-makers.
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